IPL: Chennai Super Kings braces for Kings XI Punjab battle

After being undone by Mumbai Indians in its previous duel, Chennai Super Kings braces for a battle against Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League 2019.
IPL: Chennai Super Kings braces for Kings XI Punjab battle

Chennai

Following four consecutive contests under the night skies, CSK hosts Ravichandran Ashwin’s men in an evening (4 pm) fixture at the MA Chidambaram Stadium here on Saturday. Both teams (on six points each) are positioned in the top half of the table, with the tourist pipping the home side on Net Run Rate.

Super Kings did endure defeat in its last trip, but its fortress is yet to be breached. Royal Challengers Bangalore and Rajasthan Royals left empty-handed, after attempting to dominate at the ‘Den’. While RCB simply failed to turn up in the tournament opener, Royals went down in a cliff-hanger.

Though CSK has posted three wins on the board, it has been far from its menacing best. Shane Watson and Ambati Rayudu have failed to set the tone at the top, combining for a mere 96 runs. The duo will hope to turn its fortunes around against a KXIP attack, which is fresh from a devastating spell. The ever-consistent Suresh Raina is yet to hit the ground running in the eight-team competition.

Once the stylish southpaw gets going, there are very few in the business who can dare to stop him. MS Dhoni, the side’s top-scorer with 119 runs, rescued a sinking ship against RR, but the local faithful wouldn’t want to see their side in such a precarious position again.    

Leggie Imran Tahir and Dwayne Bravo have had the most returns in the bowling department, scalping seven each. Caribbean all-rounder Bravo, who was taken to the cleaners in the closing stages of the MI match, is unavailable. New recruit Scott Kuggeleijn could be a direct replacement for him.

CSK head coach Stephen Fleming is expected to revert to a three-pronged slow bowling attack on a spin-friendly Chepauk strip. Since this encounter has an early start, dew wouldn’t disrupt the ploys later in the day. Harbhajan Singh might get the nod ahead of Mitchell Santner because of the presence of three attacking lefties (Chris Gayle, David Miller and Sam Curran) in the opposition ranks. It will be a homecoming for Kings XI captain Ashwin, who knows the surface in and out. During their seven-year association at CSK, Dhoni tossing the ball up to the 32-year-old in the powerplay overs was a constant feature. The offie would more often than not deliver miserly spells, keeping the rival batsmen in check.

But this time around, Ashwin will call out the spin of the coin wearing the away attire. KXIP snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against Delhi Capitals in its last game and the visitor would aim to make it three W’s on the trot. In Mohali, hat-trick hero Curran and Mohammed Shami uprooted the stumps thrice in a span of five deliveries, steering their side to a stunning success.

Chief Mike Hesson would want more of the same in the death overs. The match-up against the three-time title-winner will also be a special one for Tamil Nadu spin twins Murugan Ashwin and Varun Chakravarthy, who have made two and one appearances respectively for the Punjab-based franchise.

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